Buck Henry Biography
Buck Henry was known mostly as a writer — he was the co-creator of TV’s Get Smart (1965-70) and the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Graduate (1967).
After graduating from Dartmouth (1952) and serving in the U.S. Army (1953-55), he performed improvisational comedy in New York. Fellow Dartmouth grad Bob Rafaelson — later the director of Five Easy Pieces — introduced Henry around in Los Angeles and by 1961 he was writing for Steve Allen‘s TV show.
Then Henry and Mel Brooks created the TV comedy Get Smart, a silly-but-smart parody of spy movies that was a hit. After a couple of years of writing Get Smart, Henry was asked by Mike Nichols to write the screenplay for The Graduate. The film was nominated for seven Oscars and became a marker for twenty-somethings of the era.
In the 1970s, Buck Henry was also known for his on-screen appearances as the frequent host in the early days of Saturday Night Live (his deadpan delivery was often used as a counter to star John Belushi‘s wildness).
Henry’s screen roles were usually small but memorable: he was a hotel clerk in The Graduate; he played Colonel Korn in the film version of Catch-22 (1970); in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Henry was Oliver Farnsworth, the lawyer who assists David Bowie‘s character; Henry played a bank manager in the black comedy Eating Raoul (1982); he played himself in The Player (1992), pitching an idea for The Graduate II; and he played Tina Fey‘s father in the TV series 30 Rock (2007-10).
He was nominated for an Oscar again — as best director — for 1978’s Heaven Can Wait, which he co-directed with the film’s star, Warren Beatty.